BUSINESS owners in Reading are being urged to ensure they are only employing staff who have the right to work in the UK following a string of license reviews in the town.
Two retail premises which recently faced enforcement action are the latest in a long line of employers who have been found to be flouting employment laws and failing to comply with conditions on their licences.
Map Food and Wine, in London Road, had their licence revoked on 6th December for employing an illegal worker and committing 25 licensing offences over the course of three visits.
Tops Pizza, of Wokingham Road, had their licence suspended for three months on 4th December for employing three people who had no right to work in the UK. They were also found to have committed 21 licensing offences during the course of three visits to the premises in 2018.
Both these licenses were reviewed by Reading Borough Council assisted by Immigration Enforcement and following extensive joint working.
Since April 2017, the Council and Immigration Enforcement have conducted over 100 joint inspections of licensed premises. Some of these have been as a result of specific intelligence identifying illegal working whilst the majority have been joint inspections to check compliance with licensing legislation.
More than 40 licensed premises were found to have employed one or more illegal workers who had either no right to work or had no right to be in the UK.
Council officers found that workers were being paid well below the minimum wage; staff were being paid cash in hand to avoid paying any tax or national insurance contributions and that the premises were generally not complying with the conditions on their licence and licensing legislation.
To date, 12 licences have been revoked and one has been suspended for three months. The Council and Immigration Enforcement, with the support of Thames Valley Police, have led on these reviews and work is ongoing to deal with other licence holders who have been found to have broken the law. Immigration Enforcement are also able to fine a business £20,000 per illegal worker.
Cllr Sophia James, Lead Councillor for Neighbourhoods and Communities, said:
“Whilst there is uncertainty, especially at this time, around immigration policy, we are committed to working with the Home Office Immigration Enforcement team to tackle illegal practices.
“Our aim is to ensure that in Reading, people are treated fairly, have the opportunity to work and earn a fair wage. We will not tolerate businesses taking short cuts to avoid tax and national insurance or paying their staff below the minimum wage. Combating illegal working practices supports local businesses which play by the rules, prevents the exploitation of vulnerable immigrants and increases the number of employment opportunities in this town.
“We will continue to work with Immigration Enforcement to tackle illegal working and the lack of licensing compliance within some premises. We would therefore re-iterate, once again, that all business owners check their staff’s right to work documents and their licence to make sure they are in order. We will not hesitate to take action against businesses that commit these serious criminal offences and undermine the licensing objectives in this manner.”
Assistant Director Ade Jolaoso, South Central Immigration Enforcement Team, said:
“We will continue to work with Reading Borough Council to tackle illegal working and the abuse of licencing laws.
“Using illegal labour is not a victimless crime; it cheats the taxpayer, undercuts honest employers and means legitimate job seekers are denied employment opportunities. It also exploits some of society’s most vulnerable people.
“We are happy to work with businesses to ensure the right pre-employment checks are carried out, but those intent on operating outside the law will be found and will be punished.”
People with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact https://www.gov.uk/report-immigration-crime or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Information to help employers carry out checks to prevent illegal working can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/employers-illegal-working-penalties. It includes a quick answer right-to-work tool to help employers check if someone has the right to work in the UK.